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Economic factors affecting human fertility in the developing areas of South Africa.

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The World Bank has expressed concern over the high population growth rates in sub-saharan Africa. South Africa's annual population growth rate in the traditional sector is 2,9 percent. This study identifies the economic factors affecting family size choice to provide policy makers with a strategy for reducing fertility. A neoclassical utility framework was used to analyse linkages between family size decisions and socio-economic variables. Household utility for "child services" and "standard of living" was maximised subject to the resource constraints of time, labour and income. A stratified sampling technique was used to collect household data from Ulundi and Ubombo in KwaZulu. One hundred and seventy five women in three occupational strata were interviewed. A static demand function for children was estimated by multiple regression. The demand function was re-estimated within a simultaneous model of family decision making which was estimated by two-stage least squares regression analysis. Dummy dependent variables were estimated by probit analysis. Principal components analysis was used to confirm the underlying theoretical linkages and discriminant analysis was used to distinguish users from non-users of modern contraception. Results show that child education, woman's opportunity cost of time and formal labour market participation were negatively related to fertility reflecting a substitution from numbers of children (time intensive goods) to fewer, more educated children (less time intensive) as opportunity costs rise. Principal components confirmed that this substitution effect dominated the pure income effect as lifetime family earnings increased even though children are normal goods. Child labour and children's contribution to income were positively related to fertility. These benefits accrued mainly to rural people because in urban areas parents depend less on subsistence farming and essential services (water and electricity supply) are provided. Discriminant analysis showed that 47,7 percent of the respondents used contraception (including abstinence and sterility). The most important reasons for use were for child spacing and the desire for no more children. The latter reason was given by women who had completed fertility and young women who wanted to avoid untimely pregnancy. The actions of the young women emphasise the importance of opportunity cost which was further supported by positive relationships between woman's current income, child education and contraceptive use. Therefore strategies to reduce population growth rates should include improvements in education and employment opportunities which would raise time costs for women. Provision of time saving devices and essential services, and better pension and social security schemes would reduce the benefits from children thereby reducing family size. For better community acceptance of contraception, the benefits for child spacing and survival should be promoted.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 1990.


Fertility, Human--Economic aspects--South Africa., Family size--South Africa., Households--KwaZulu-Natal., Theses--Agricultural economics.